TabbedOut: A Marvelous App

I’m big into logistics. It’s in my blood. Most of the useful work I’ve done in my life (as opposed to killing people or cocktail blogging) has been in transportation or logistical support. But even I find the logistics of leaving a bar a pain in the backside. And whatever your background, I’m guessing that we have at least that in common. Moreover, your bartender is of the same opinion as well.

There are a lot of moving pieces to paying your check, and each has to happen in the correct order. You have to get the check, look it over, pay the bartender, wait for change or for your card back before you can finally move on to the next stop or to home. At any point in this process, your bartender may be in the weeds, or maybe he’s just down at the other end of the bar, flexing for the group of young ladies with questionable virtue but unquestionable cleavage. It is frustrating. And it is for the bartender as well. The time she spends running your tab, finding your card, or making change, is time she can’t spend with other customers who are still producing revenue and need service. Most times, things go pretty smoothly, but even the occasional hiccup is a memory you don’t want, and can be a disaster for the bartender and his employer.

But technology rocks logistics, and there is a new company out there that aims to radically ease this particular burden on both patron and bar. It is called TabbedOut and it would seem to offer a really great way to nearly eliminate this scourge from our lives, through a nifty little app on your smartphone and some add-on software to common Point-of-Sale systems.

When she turns around to that POS system, she isn’t helping any thirsty customers.

TabbedOut is incredibly simple, and like many simple things, incredibly powerful, too. Here’s how it works:

  • You enter a restaurant or bar that supports TabbedOut. The app uses location services to tell you whether your chosen watering hole is hooked in, and if not, which places nearby do. You tell your app you’d like to open a tab, give it your password, and it returns a short code. You show this to your bartender, and they enter it in the POS system. Your tab is open.
  • From now until you leave is the same as any other way of operating. Order drinks just like usual, and they go on your tab.
  • When you are ready to go, open your TabbedOut app, review your tab online on your phone, select the amount of tip you’d like to leave, and walk away. That’s it. You’re bill is paid, your tab is closed, you can go, and your bartender can go right on pulling Budweisers for the crowd of Steelers fans drowning their sorrows down the bar.

The ease and convenience of TabbedOut’s basic features alone makes it well worth checking out, but there are more considerations here than meet the eye, as well as more functionality.

This is a very secure way of doing things for everybody involved. Most importantly, you never let the credit card you pay with out of your possession, much less have to leave it in some plastic index card box behind the bar all evening as you must in some places. TabbedOut’s servers send your card number from your phone securely and invisibly to the POS system.
I once had my Amex card skimmed. I hadn’t used it anywhere for a while, so I knew it had to have happened in one of two bars I went to the previous weekend. I called both places to give a friendly heads-up to management about my suspicions. One was apologetic and thankful for the opportunity to watch out for the problem. The other was defensive. I’ve never been back to the second place, despite the fact that it was (is) a great bar here in Columbus. My point is, credit card fraud is a disaster for both the patron and the bar. With TabbedOut, your chances of a security failure are significantly reduced.

“Let’s see… Phillip, you had the Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and three Jager Bombs…”

There are other very nice features beyond that bare-bones description, too. The biggest one is check splitting. The only people who like this process are those who revel in arguing their share down to the last twenty five cents on a four-hour dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. And yes, I have sat next to those people. I hated every second of that process and it wasn’t even my check.
TabbedOut offers several very easy ways to split the check. You can split the check in equal parts. You can manually split it into shares. Or best of all, and this short-circuits the quarter-pinchers, you can bring up the tab on your phone and pick which items each guest had. If your friends are also on TabbedOut, they can get your tab code from you and add themselves to your tab. Then they can pay their portion, as determined above, any time they want to. Or they can go through the hassle of paying the bartender directly, and their portion will be taken off your tab. Regardless, all the information and tools you need to easily split the check are always in your pocket.

There are a few other handy features for customers of TabbedOut too, such as CabbedOut, which will find a cab company for you whether you are in an unfamiliar city, or just so drunk you can’t remember your own.
For the social media addicts out there, TabbedOut has all the hooks needed to Tweet, post to your FaceBook wall, or check-in with Foursquare automatically whenever you open or close a tab.
The system also facilitates a really good pubcrawl, as you can keep a number of tabs open simultaneously in different bars. Incidentally, this and other factors make TabbedOut more popular in areas where there is some density of establishments that offer it, but that doesn’t mean it cannot work just fine at only one place in a city.

And TabbedOut has much to offer bartenders and owners as well. Foremost, it saves a lot of the bartenders’ time. That is time that can be spent taking care of customers (or flexing for the attractive barflys). This can mean significant extra revenue at time periods like Last Call, or the end of a ball game. In restaurant bars, a patron won’t have to delay to get their check when their table becomes ready. Also, like with OpenTable, patrons who get used to using the app will prefer to go to places that support it, and the app provides a very nice feature to help them find bars that do.

There are significant financial protections for the bar as well. The reputation of the bar and its honest employees are protected should a bad apple slip in. More importantly, should a customer just walk off, there is no need to chase them down. The bartender can close out any tab any time they want, or just at the end of the night. Or should the customer forget to close the tab, they can still close it themselves from home or the next bar over.

TabbedOut is easy to setup for most establishments, as it hooks in to most of the major POS systems, such as MICROS, Focus, Future POS, Dinerware, Jumpware, and others. It does require some additional training, which can be a consideration in such a high-turnover business. But the system is so simple and transparent, I imagine much of the process is taken up by simply convincing a new employee how easy it is going to be.

The last thing I’d like to address with this system is tipping, something that is important to both patron and employee alike.

Tipping is also made easier with the TabbedOut model. When a customer chooses to close their tab, there is a percentage slider to set the desired tip amount, and that is it. There is no math to trip up or embarrass you after three Pegus and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Each restaurant sets its own default tip percentage, and if the customer forgets to close his tab, that default amount will be applied for him when the bar closes it. The default amount is also a minimum amount, so the staff will not be stiffed on any tab run through TabbedOut any more than they will be stuck with a walked check.

I’m really very excited about this product. TabbedOut appears feature-rich, easy to use, a little fun, and offers value to both customer and establishment alike. I suggest downloading the free app from the iTunes store or Android Marketplace and seeing what bars near you are set up to use it. And if you are a bar owner or manager, may I suggest giving them a call?


  1. sylvan

    10 January

    Thanks for this, Doug! A number of good local bars (Beaker and Flask, for instance) are using this, and I had not heard of it. Think I might give it a whirl.

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  2. This app is so fabulous because this do more things perfect that don’t doable by us.the creator of this app had such most interesting idea to getting on now if we going to the bar we don’t have to get a cash with us we simply shows our smartphone to our bartender.isn’t this amazing!!!

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  3. Bonjour

    8 May

    Merci pour l’article

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. 100% ok with you definitively need some bar tab payment process optimization. However I have yet to see a bar using this app around my place…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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